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Reirden ready for 'unique challenge' as new Capitals coach

Expecting seamless transition with Stanley Cup champions

by Brian McNally / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Todd Reirden faces an extra challenge as he prepares for his first season as coach of the Washington Capitals.

Not only will he be taking over an NHL team for the first time, he will try to help the Capitals repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

"It will be a unique challenge," Reirden said Tuesday. "There's no need to put that into any other way than it is."

The 47-year-old joins Scotty Bowman (1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins), Colin Campbell (1994-95 New York Rangers) and Dave Lewis (2002-03 Detroit Red Wings) as the fourth coach in the past 30 years to take over a team that won the Stanley Cup the previous season.

"I'm coming into a situation where we've had success and have been able to get the biggest prize in the game in our hands, and we did it a certain way," Reirden said. "There's going to be many things that stay the same, but there's going to be some different things that I think we have to emphasize to a team that's going to be repeating."

Video: Reirden on becoming the Capitals' head coach

Reirden joined the Capitals as an assistant to Barry Trotz in 2014 and was promoted to associate coach in 2016. Trotz resigned June 18, 11 days after Washington won the Cup, and Reirden was promoted to coach June 29.

"For me, Todd's at that point in his career where he's earned a head coaching job," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "He's put in all the work. He's got all the experience. It's just a matter of seeing him take control. I have all the faith in the world that he can accomplish it. He's just ready to do it right now."

The Capitals thought enough of Reirden that he remained under contract last season while Trotz coached the final year of his contract. That awkward situation could have unraveled, especially after Washington started 10-9-1.

"It was 100 percent honest discussions between Barry and I a couple of different times involving that situation," Reirden said. "But at the end of every discussion it always ended with winning the Stanley Cup. Let's win. Let's do whatever it takes for us to win and things will all play out."

Video: Mike Vogel on Capitals' new coaching hire

Reirden will have a stable roster returning. He's worked closely with defenseman John Carlson, who signed an eight-year, $64 million contract with the Capitals on June 24. MacLellan lauded Reirden's work with defenseman Michal Kempny after he was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 19. Kempny quickly became a reliable partner with Carlson and that revamped defense helped Washington finish the regular season on a 12-3-0 run and go 16-8 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"[Reirden] helped get my belief in myself back and I really appreciate him for it," Kempny said June 13. "Because when I came here, I didn't believe in myself. I didn't have confidence enough, and now I'm back and my confidence is getting better and better. The plan worked out really well."

Kempny signed a four-year, $10 million contract June 29. The Capitals' top four defensemen, including Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen, are under contract for at least the next three seasons. The Capitals also re-signed forward Devante Smith-Pelly (one year, $1 million) on June 28.

The only key players lost were defenseman Brooks Orpik and goalie Philipp Grubauer, who were traded to the Colorado Avalanche on June 22. Orpik's contract was bought out by Colorado and he is in talks with Washington about a possible return.

"I expect this to be an extremely seamless transition, and I think the reason I can make that statement is because I've been here for four years," Reirden said. "I know everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom of the organization and I've been able to establish working relationships with them."

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